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Monthly Archives: April 2012

The True Jew

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Romans 2:27-29)

The true Jew, is someone who is a Jew in his heart. True circumcision, is circumcision of the heart. These two concepts may seem almost absurd. After all, how can someone circumcise his own heart? How can someone be an inward rather than an outward Jew?

Well, it only seems crazy until you really think about it. After all, what is a Jew? A Jew is someone who is chosen by God.  And who is the “chosen” of God? All who accept and believe in His son, and someone whose heart has been cut clean of sin. A true Jew is a Spiritual Jew, rather than a physical one. And in fact, it’s this physical Judaism that Paul is speaking out against here: it doesn’t matter if you offer sacrifices, or have a prayer shawl, or whatever else. What matters is your heart.

So, has Jesus circumcised our hearts yet? Has the cross-cut off the sin which ensnared our lives? If He hasn’t, we need to let go of whatever effort we were making to be made perfect before God on our own, and instead let Jesus’ blood make us pure and perfect before God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today the pastor preached on Ephesians 5:8-20. His topic was wisdom, and he had three points:

  1. Wisdom makes us lives wisely.
  2. Wisdom makes us redeem the time.
  3. Wisdom makes us listen to the Holy Spirit.

When he talked about living wisely, he said that living wisely meant to live for Christ; it meant to, “let your light shine.”, as he put it.

Then when he talked about redeeming the time, he reminded us that we all, “have a number”; our age. And that number, “isn’t getting any smaller.” At this point, he started preaching a little more evangelistically, saying “Your time is running out, so if you have not yet come to Christ, now is the time to do so! You may never get another chance. Now you may say, ‘Pastor, are you trying to scare me?’, well if I scare right out of Hell, yes I am.”

Then he finished up with the third point: wisdom makes us listen to the Holy Spirit. He finished up by saying, “The Holy Spirit is searching, he’s going pew to pew, and He’s calling to you. So you can either come forward to the altar now, or you squash the voice of the Holy Spirit, and leave.”

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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The Kindness of “Cruelty”

Hello again!

Yesterday we finished the book of John, and so today we’re moving on to Romans. — This is what God gave me today in His word:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21-25)

Sure what these people did was bad, outright awful even, but does that mean they should be abandoned? What sort of cruel God would ever simply give up His people to the “lusts of their flesh”? Did God perhaps make a mistake when He did that?

What God would do that? One who understood the importance of love. It was the loving thing to do for God to give them up in that particular time. What truly loving parent would reward a child for disobedience? No loving parent would. Only a parent that wants their child to grow up disobedient and selfish would do something like that. So, if it’s the loving thing for a parent to discipline their child for wrong behavior, then is it not the loving thing for God to, for a time, let people experience the results of their wrong behavior?

If a child wants to replace their parents with a wooden image of them (i.e. “make an idol”), that child will quickly discover the error of his ways. Likewise, when people replace God with something else, God will, for a time, withdraw His presence. Does God have the power to put His all-powerful foot down and force everyone to “love” and “serve” Him? Yes, He certainly does. But He doesn’t, as no forced love can be real, and He wants His children to truly love Him.

God has given us an abundant number of gifts: He’s given us life, the ability to pursue happiness, language. Yet there’s one gift that eclipses all of these: God has given us His son. Not only that, but God gave Him to become our sin (see: 2 Corinthians 5:21), and to die a horrible death on a cross in order to save us; the perfect crucified for the imperfect. If someone refuses this gift, God doesn’t force them to accept it. Rather, He withdraws, and allows them to experience the error of their ways for a while. But He doesn’t only do this for those who don’t yet believe.

Paul in the above verses is talking about, “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (see: Romans 1:18), but Christians as-well act in an ungodly and unrighteous manner. – The difference between the unbeliever, and the believer, being that the believer will always come back from these temporary falls. – And so God withdraws from them, for a time, as well. C.S. Lewis called this the law of undulation; people have good and bad times in their Spiritual as well as their physical lives, but will eventually bounce back. They won’t “bounce back” because it’s in their nature to do so, or any folly like that, but because God doesn’t withdraw completely. Even in the worst possible times, God still will continue to give us grace; grace which enables us to come back from the edge. (That being said, it’s still a very bad idea to go to the “edge”).

The point being this: God is not cruel, He is kind; He’ll allow us to experience times of Spiritual drought when we’re away from Him, in order to make the spring of living water that is His grace He gives us all the more precious.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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How Much Fish Have We Caught?

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. (John 21:5-6)

So, fellow children of God, do we have any fish? – No, we may not be fishers like the disciples, but we should still be getting “fish”. – In order to answer that question, let’s look at this passage in the larger context of Scripture. Now then, at what time other than this one, does Jesus (in essence) tell His disciples to ‘cast their nets on the other-side of the boat’? One time, was when He rebuked them for not having so much as a mustard seed worth of faith (I’ll explain what I mean by that in a bit). If you don’t remember the time He said that, it was on a boat, which was in the middle of a storm. The disciples were panicking, thinking they were going to drown; they cast their nets on the side of doubt. Then Jesus comes, and rebukes them. Then they stopped what they were doing, and start doing something else, and so their faith grows (or, if you will, they actually start having a “faith”); they turned around at cast their nets a little more on the side of faith.

You don’t need to be a fisherman/women to start catching fish. In the story in the verse above, we see a real, physical manifestation of a real, Spiritual truth. i.e. We aren’t to cast our “nets” wherever we please. If we do that, we can be sure we’ll fail miserably to “catch” anything. Instead, we are to trust Jesus to know best, and follow His word to us; only by doing that, will we “catch” anything. — When I talk about casting nets, I’m talking about our actions. i.e. If we do whatever we please, we won’t produce any “fish”; any good works. It’s only by following God’s word, the Bible (which is God’s written word), that we can do anything good, or useful.

So, here’s that question again: fellow children of God, have we caught anything? Are we obeying God’s will for our lives, or are we sitting by uselessly, and not being any help to anyone?

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Peace Through Piercing

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)

Notice one very important connection here: after Jesus said, “Peace be with you.”, he showed His disciples His hands and side; all the places which He had been pierced. – We can find peace, where He is pierced. — The prophecy of Jesus has come true:

For to us a child is born,(A)
    to us a son is given,(B)
    and the government(C) will be on his shoulders.(D)
And he will be called
    Wonderful, Counselor,(E) Mighty God,(F)
    Everlasting(G) Father,(H) Prince of Peace.(I)

Jesus has become our prince of peace. Jesus, and the peace He gives us, is what sets us apart from the rest of the World. Outside of Christ, families argue, break apart, and relationships crumble. Yet with Christ, there is peace; wherever Christ is, there is peace.

So, do we have peace? Does Jesus’ dying for our sins; does His being pierced for our transgressions, give us peace?

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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Peter’s Progression

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” (John 18:15-17)

Let’s look at the events that occurred in leading up to Peter’s denying Christ: – on a side-note, Peter actually denied Christ three times, but his first denial is all we’re going to look at for now. – First, we see that Peter, “and another disciple” were following Jesus. Then Jesus and the other disciple go in to high priest’s courts, while Peter stays behind. This, right here, when Peter is away from Jesus and “the other disciple”, is when he denies Christ. There’s a progression that goes on here: first Peter is following Christ, and has another disciple to help him and spur him on (so to speak. — we don’t know if the other disciple actually did any “spurring on”…). But then, when Peter is alone, does he give in to the sin of denying Christ.

We can learn something from Peter’s progression. First and foremost among the things we can learn, being not to be separated from Christ! Granted, in this case, Peter didn’t have a choice in the matter, but the fact still stands that when Jesus left was the time Peter fell. Likewise, when we grow distant from Christ; when we stop reading our Bibles, when we stop praying, and when we grow apart from other believers, that’s when we become most vulnerable to attacks.

The point being simply this: let’s not get away from Christ. Instead, looking forward to the cross, let’s run the race which has been set out before us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Delivered Through Love, Peter

 

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God’s Megaphone

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus has overcome the World. He hasn’t overcome Asia, nor Africa, nor America, nor, in fact, has He overcome the Earth. —  He doesn’t have a need to, He created those areas Himself, and they won’t rebel. No, what Jesus has overcome, is the World. The “World”, isn’t the same thing as the Earth, in this particular case. Rather, it refers to everyone who isn’t a believer. – We see this from the surrounding context. i.e. Recently He’s been talking about how His disciples believe that He came from “The Father”, and there are also other areas where He makes the distinction between the Earth and the World. – But that’s a side issue. The important thing, is that Jesus has indeed overcome the World!

He has overcome principalities, powers, and Satan himself. We have absolutely nothing to fear now; not even death, because Christ has overcome even that! So here’s the big question: if Christ has indeed overcome the World, why suffering? Why is it God allows people to die awful deaths of starvation, and be forced to endure abuse each and every day? I mean, if God is truly as powerful as the Bible says He is, and if He can truly see everything, and if He really has overcome the World, why is there so much torment still in the World?

There is suffering, for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, God allows it in order to have it call people to Himself. — What is the time when we’re most likely to turn to Christ? When we’re the most needy. God also allows suffering, in order to show people they’re doing something wrong. Take the lower castes in India; there are thousands of lower caste people there who have likely never had a “good meal” in their lives, and you’ve probably never seen any one group of people more open to hearing about the Gospel of Christ.

Why suffering? Because it’s God’s megaphone to everyone, telling them that their time on this Earth is limited, so turn to Christ now, or you may never get the chance again.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Need of Conviction

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11)

Jesus shows us three convictions that the Holy Spirit would give people: the conviction of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: the conviction of sin, because they don’t believe in Jesus, and thus are still living in their sin. The conviction of righteousness, because Jesus, the righteousness of the World, without whom no one can be righteous, would be leaving. And finally, the conviction of judgment, because the Devil (who is the ruler of the Earth) would be judged. – Alright, pretty simple. Not too hard to understand. So here’s the question: why is it we seem to have forgotten about conviction?

To clarify: why is it the sermons we hear lack any conviction? Why is it we live nice, little, un-convicted lives? Why have our pastors become false prophets, who tell us only what we want to here? Why is our conscience being soothed with lies? Alright, this doesn’t happen everywhere, its true. But there can be no denying that the majority tends to lean towards the soothing, and the comforting, rather than the convicting.  Comfort or conviction, that is the question. The Holy Spirit or lies. Happy un-believers or convicted believers.

The Holy Spirit is in conviction, there’s no doubt about that. In fact, it’s His (the Holy Spirit’s) main goal to cause conviction in people (yes, He also had other goals, such as empowering people to do miraculous works, etc.). Unless the parent steps in, a tells the kid that something their doing is wrong (convicts them of their ‘sin’), the kid will likely continue to do whatever it is their not supposed to do. It’s not much different when it comes to Spiritual children and Spiritual adults. – Think of a child sticking its hand into fire. If it doesn’t feel the pain from being burned, it will continue sticking it’s hand in the flame. Conviction is uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to prevent further damage.

So then, are we going to a comfort Church? Are we going to the Church of Comfort, or are we going to an actual Church; conviction and all?

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today my brother Daniel preached. The passage he talked on was 1 Peter 2:13-17. The gist of what he was saying, was, (as Peter is talking about in that particular section), we should obey the government.

In verses thirteen-fourteen, he brought out that it is the governments job to punish evil, and that it’s God that put the government into place. Here, he also brought out Romans 13:1-4, in order to support what he was saying.

In verse fifteen, he brought out how the majority of citizens in America mock the government. Here he also brought out an example of a site that’s sole goal was to publish one hundred government-mocking videos in the span of twenty-four hours. Here, he also posed the question, “What if they saw us, instead of going along with them, not mocking the government; would it cause them to stop doing it themselves?”

Finally, he ended on verse sixteen, with the statement that, we should live free, because we are free. Here, he also brought out Romans 6:1-2, to finalize his point.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Todays Sermon

 

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Abiding in Love

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)

Well, Jesus explains this parable pretty clearly: we have to remain in Him (as a branch has to remain in the vine), in order to be useful (i.e. “produce fruit”). But God will “prune us”, by sending trials to us – in order to make us more useful. But now, here’s the question: how is it possible for anyone to “abide in Christ”? Well He actually explains that too:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)

So we’re to abide in Jesus’ love… If you would, let me remind you of another verse which talks about God’s love:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

We are to abide in Christ’s love, and in doing so, we will be made useful. And what is the greatest display of Jesus’ love, which He ever made? When He sacrificed Himself, in order to save us. So when He says we are to abide in His love, it could be inferred, that Jesus is saying we are to abide in His greatest display of love ever; in His sacrifice for us. By “abiding” (focusing our thoughts on…) that, we’ll become useful. – After all, in what way can a follower of Christ be truly useful, if not by spreading the Gospel to others? And how is one supposed to spread something, when they themselves aren’t even thinking of it at the time when the opportunity to spread it, comes?

There is no other vine which can keep us alive. The “vine” of money is long dead, and a dead vine can’t exactly support branches. Likewise the “vine” of pride, of vanity, and of every other sort of sin is dead. There is only one “vine” which can give us life, and that’s the vine of Jesus’ death for us. So let’s abide in that; the only thing which can allow us to bear fruit, and to live and upright life for God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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